Riverview school hopes to make Shell Point permanent home

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comApril 29, 2014 

After failed attempts over several years, Riverview Charter School is one step closer to securing a permanent location.

Though it still wouldn't own the building, Riverview is working with the Beaufort County School District on a long-term lease for its current home, the former Shell Point Elementary School, which it might also seek to renovate, according to Riverview director Alison Thomas.

"We are trying to determine if a lease would work for both the district and the school to meet everyone's needs," she said.

Riverview leases the building for $270,000 a year, and its current agreement could be extended for another two years, Thomas said. But the charter school hopes to be able to lease it for much longer -- possibly decades -- though the length of time is still being negotiated.

Riverview approached the district about purchasing the building this year, but the school board decided not to sell so the property would be available as district needs arise, school board Chairman Bill Evans said.

"We enjoy having Riverview there and think it's a very good option for students and families to be able to attend," Evans said. "But we have to leave the door open for future possibilities and options."

The district, however, will consider a long-term lease that would provide the charter school with a stable location, school board member Geri Kinton said.

Thomas said Riverview wants to stay at Shell Point, but the building needs renovations and additions to accommodate its growing enrollment. The school has about 500 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and is expected to expand to 684 students by 2019.

Initial cost estimates for renovations are $6 million to $7 million, and the school likely would issue bonds to fund it, according to Thomas.

But the language of a long-term lease agreement that would allow Riverview to renovate is complicated, Evans said, and the parties are negotiating those terms now.

Thomas said the school hopes to reach an agreement soon so it could begin renovations to prepare for the growth.

"I think, so far, all parties have been engaged and are committed to find an opportunity and a way to make this work," she said.

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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